Friday, July 29, 2016

Translating Genesis 2:19 (An Exploration)

There have been questions raised about Genesis 2:19, and how it should be rendered:

"And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was its name" (KJV 2000).

"And Jehovah God formeth from the ground every beast of the field, and every fowl of the heavens, and bringeth in unto the man, to see what he doth call it; and whatever the man calleth a living creature, that is its name" (YLT).

"And out of the ground Jehovah Elohim had formed every animal of the field and all fowl of the heavens, and brought [them] to Man, to see what he would call them; and whatever Man called each living soul, that was its name" (Darby BT).

Should one translate the Hebrew with the English "formed" or "had formed"?

There is certainly not unanimous consent on this issue, although many translations choose "formed" to convey the thought in 2:19.

Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: "The arrangement may be explained on the supposition, that the writer, who was about to describe the relation of man to the beasts, went back to their creation, in the simple method of the early Semitic historians, and placed this first instead of making it subordinate; so that our modern style of expressing the same thought would be simply this: 'God brought to Adam the beasts which He had formed.'"

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible:
"And out of the ground Jehovah formed every beast of the field, and every bird of the heavens; and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them: and whatsoever the man called every living creature, that was the name thereof."

"God formed every beast ..." The proper way to translate this is "God had formed,"[26] etc. This is not the record of another creation, or a contradictory account of that given in Genesis 1, but a sub-section evidently given to reveal the intelligent genius of Adam, thus demonstrating the necessity of finding a mate for him who would partake in every way of his genius and ability, a problem that God solved by creating woman out of Adam himself. "Whatsoever the man called every living creature..." As Whitelaw commented:

"In this it is implied that man was created with the faculty of speech, the distinct gift of articulate and rational utterance, and the capacity of attaching words to ideas ... Already man had received from God his first lesson in the exercise of speech in the naming of the trees (in Eden) and the imposing of the prohibition."[27]

The NET Bible uses "formed," and here is the note provided (note 58):

tn Or “fashioned.” To harmonize the order of events with the chronology of chapter one, some translate the prefixed verb form with vav (ו) consecutive as a past perfect (“had formed,” cf. NIV) here. (In chapter one the creation of the animals preceded the creation of man; here the animals are created after the man.) However, it is unlikely that the Hebrew construction can be translated in this way in the middle of this pericope, for the criteria for unmarked temporal overlay are not present here. See S. R. Driver, A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew, 84-88, and especially R. Buth, “Methodological Collision between Source Criticism and Discourse Analysis,” Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics, 138-54. For a contrary viewpoint see IBHS 552-53 §33.2.3 and C. J. Collins, “The Wayyiqtol as ‘Pluperfect’: When and Why,” TynBul 46 (1995): 117-40.



Duncan said...

"in the simple method of the early Semitic historians, and placed this first instead of making it subordinate" - references?

Edgar Foster said...

That quote comes from K-D, but I don't think it's controversial to argue that ancient "Semitic historians" don't always report events in strict chornological order, and they sometimes hearken back to earlier acts/incidences. But Collins makes a case for this idea in the article I've linked above.

Here is also the link for his article on the pluperfect:

Duncan said...

[10-129] HYMN CXXIX. Creation.
1. THEN was not non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?
2 Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day's and night's divider.
That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
3 Darkness there was: at first concealed in darknew this All was indiscriminated chaos.
All that existed then was void and form less: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.
4 Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit.
Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent.
5 Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?
There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder
6 Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this
TheGods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
7 He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

From the rig Veda collection Translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
2nd edition, Kotagiri (Nilgiri) 1896

This IMO is in serious need of retranslation using modern lexical understanding of the terms used.

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

The Pluperfect article assumes that the perfect verb form is diachronically consistent (or is made uniform through DH redaction).

I am not nessacarily disagreeing with the articles conclusions but comparing genesis to kings is an approach I would not attempt. Restriction to Torah verses IMO would be more productive if the focus of the paper is genesis chapter 2 which is how it reads to me.

If the pluperfect is in effect in genesis 2 it still does not specifically explain the change in order which the chiastic does not require to function.

Edgar Foster said...

Here is another perspective on Gen. 2:19. See

One objection that you raise is methdological, but I think the possibility that 2:19 is pluperfect could be establsihed without invoking Kings. But I think similar methods are used all the time. We have to discern what grammar or philology tell us about similarities between Genesis and Kings.

I see Gen. 2 as complementary to chapter 1, whether one decides to use the pluperfect in 2:19 or not.

Duncan said...

What about the difference in gen 2:1 LXX to MT?

This would seem to be a strange mistake for LXX Torah.

Jan joosten's are coming thick and fast at the moment and this one has some relevance.

Demonstrating the opposite.

No reason for this verses order to be altered or the language to be adjusted & does place a question mark over the supposed chiastic structure. Shouldn't this type of Hebraism be maintained if in the source text?

I believe that everything in the creation account has its purpose in the narrative but we have yet to uncover some of it's specific goals.

Edgar Foster said...

See this link for a discussion of the "transformation" in Gen. 2:1 LXX:

It's not necessarily a mistake. Even the Vulgate follows the LXX in this verse.

I browsed Joosten's work, but I have not read the footnotes yet. How do you think he contributes to this particular issue about Gen. 2:1 or 2:19? I'm also not sure that the Hebraism would be preserved in LXX since we often find this not to be the case. I'm also not going to be dogmatic about the chiastic structure.

Duncan said...

Pg 82:-

"Our conclusion must be that for Greek readers of that time Genesis 2 was a very exotic text. Its many irregularities testify to massive **Hebrew interference**. Thackeray’s intuitive judgement of the LXX-Pentateuch as ‘good 􀁍􀁑􀁋􀁐􀁊􀀏 Greek’4 is certainly incorrect for this chapter."

This is actually agreeing with Joosten in respect to "Hebraism's" that are most notable throughout the Torah, but what I can glean from your link is as we have already discussed - the "original Hebrew" being a scholarly construct. The LXX itself carries at least as much weight as the MT. This transformation approach at the time it was written would be when this theory of "original Hebrew" was at its peak.

My post was in error - I was referring to the final statement in genesis 2:4.

τον ουρανον και την γην.

caelum et terram.

אֶ֥רֶץ וְשָׁמָֽיִם

Duncan said...

Unfortunately I cannot Genesis 2:4 in DSS fragments.

Duncan said...

I always find it worrying when studies into ancient text used statistical analysis of average occurrence. A very unproductive and confusing practice. I can just imagine what someone like Ehrman would have to say about it as a means of pigeonholing.

Edgar Foster said...

I find statistical analyses relatively helpful, but they only = probability, since they're not able to establish any position with certainty. Statistical analyses provide a bird's eye view of the overall textual landscape. We must use methods in academic studies, but I don't believe most scholars see a one-to-one correspondence between the stats and "real world" understanding of texts.

Edgar Foster said...

You've probably also seen

Duncan said...

Yes, thanks for adding this link. The marginals give a quick and easy guide to divergences from MT. Unfortunately 2:4 is not here.

Edgar Foster said...

Did you read the discussion about Gen. 2:4 in the leiden link that I provided above? In the book about transformations of the LXX? He analyzes Gen. 2:4 and other verses. Scroll down to page 90 of the file (the book page is 88). It may not help with your DSS query, but I think you'll see plausible reasons why LXX has a different reading from MT.

Duncan said...

I am referring specifically to the third problem as mentioned on page 90 of the book which has specific bearing on the chiastic structure - I do not believe this is discussed in this work? In fact as far as I can tell chiast are only mentioned twice in the entire work.

See this video at about 23:30 to 24:31.

For data with such a complex and in many cases unknown history, I have to agree with his sentiment.

Edgar Foster said...

I was talking about your statements on Gen. 2:4 and τον ουρανον και την γην. That part of the verse is discussed in the book. The chiastic structure is another question discussed in a journal article, but the book explains some reasons why 2:4 (MT) differs from LXX or vice versa.

Edgar Foster said...

Ehrman talks about a suggested emendation for a different text, but I don't see good reason for an emendation in Gen. 2:4 or 2:19. What scholar suggests that 2:4 or 2:19 should be emended, and why?

Edgar Foster said...

White did okay with Ehrman, but Wallace was a closer match in their debate; and WLC Craig had Ehrman for lunch in their debate. Sorry if my comments sound less than charitable, but sometimes foolishness has to be called out. Another opponent of Ehrman is Ben Witherington, who has critiqued him thoroughly.

Duncan said...

I was not referring to Ehrman for that reason. I thought the section I had picked out was referring to statistical analysis & why he thinks it is useless (as a textual critic).

The section you are referring to is outside of his field.

I try not to confuse that which is the specialization of a scholar and his ancillary comments (as I have mentioned before for Vermez).

"but the book explains some reasons why 2:4 (MT) differs from LXX or vice versa." - let me insert "possible" before "reasons".

Duncan said...

Is this the debate to which you are referring:-

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

I found the WLC Craig & Ehrman debate very unproductive as they do not really address the opponents arguments on either side.

This seems a useful talk:-

Duncan said...

PG 82 of transformation :-

"Our conclusion must be that for Greek readers of that time Genesis 2 was a very exotic text. Its many irregularities testify to massive **Hebrew interference**. Thackeray’s intuitive judgement of the LXX-Pentateuch as ‘good 􀁍􀁑􀁋􀁐􀁊􀀏 Greek’4 is certainly incorrect for this chapter."

On this basis alone you cannot omit the chiast from the discussion - it is extremely relevant - especially to a Hebrew translator into Greek as opposed to a Greek translator from Hebrew.

This issue cannot be brushed a side and it should have been covered. As I already stated, he references chiast for two other instances.

Edgar Foster said...


that is the debate I had in mind between Craig and Ehrman. As for the "transformations" book, I believe his focus has to be considered. The main reason I mentioned the work was because of your comments on Gen. 2:1, then 2:4.

Edgar Foster said...

I'm reluctant to give Ehrman a pass on the emendation remark since he should know better, and it's a major claim to make with no evidence or basis in fact. Suggested emendations are common in textual studies, but one can't just make them up along the way, to suit one's whims.

Duncan said...

"I'm reluctant to give Ehrman a pass on the emendation remark" - nor should you, but I am trying to stay objective.

"Bart himself has been one who has worked diligently to recover the wording of the originals, and with most of his decisions I agree. All who work in New Testament textual criticism owe him a debt of gratitude for his incredible efforts over the span of three decades in this regard." - Daniel B Wallace

This was my only focus and reason for linking that particular video. The problem is when those watching assume that he is authoritatively speaking an all categories of discussion.

Edgar Foster said...

I once gave Ehrman a chance, and like Wallace, I appreciate some of his work. However, after reading some of his books and watching him debate, I've developed an opinion of his overall project. IMO, he needs to make it clear when/when he is not speaking authoritatively. One can give that air by tone or attitude, etc. But mosty people also tend to believe that a "biblical scholar" is able to make all sort of authoritative pronouncements on scripture. I think Ehrman has given that impression to the lay crowd and has done little to disabuse the notion from their minds.

Duncan said...

I have just come across an interesting point of comparison for genesis 2:4b.

Psalms 148:13.

Abp LXX- αυτού mεπ γης και ουρανού

NET - his majesty extends over the earth and sky.

Edgar Foster said...

Good comparison, Duncan.

Duncan said...

I have found a work with more depth - from our favorite publishing house:)